by Professor Dianne Bevelander MBA
Originally published: March 13, 2017
Research published in 2015 in Nature Climate Change states that the thermal comfort model—the model used to regulate the temperature in many offices and public buildings across the developed world—is based on the metabolic rates of a 154 pound, 40 year old man. Women are generally smaller with more body fat and less muscle than this. As such, they have lower metabolic rates than men. The result? They sit in their offices feeling slightly cold, slightly uncomfortable, and slightly out of place. This is a reality even on International Women’s Day 2017 as I write this reflection.
“Hold on Dianne”, you might say. “Professional services firm, Grant Thornton’s latest survey of 5,500 businesses in 36 countries has found that women still only account for around a quarter of senior management roles and only an eighth of CEO roles, and you are worrying about office heating. And all this in a time when McKinsey & Co have more or less proved that companies with the highest proportion of women in leadership positions deliver the greatest returns to shareholders. Shouldn’t you be getting your priorities right?”
My response is that you are both right and wrong! Right in that there are major issues that we need to address in rectifying gender discrimination that remains a significant brake on women’s progression to the highest level of many organizations. Wrong in that the seemingly trivial example of office temperature is one of many forms of insidious but extremely effective types of workplace discrimination—subliminal discrimination! Discrimination that is unnoticed because it is unconscious and informed by biases that few of us, men and women, pay any attention to. It is precisely these persuasive biases that form much of the foundation that sustains the discriminatory edifice that we face today!